God Tests Those Who Are His

1Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the LORD promised on oath to your ancestors. 2Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. 3He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD (Deuteronomy 8:1-3).

The next important lesson that we can learn in becoming a disciple is how God molds, shapes and trains us to be all that He wants us to be. It is a clear revelation in the Scriptures that God allows and sometimes initiates times of testing to open our eyes for us to see that our character is not yet at the place where God wants us to be. Like we said in the last meditation, God prunes the dead wood of old fleshly habits in our lives, so that fresh life and fruit may come forth (John 15:2). Not all mishaps in our lives are God’s doing, however. God often gets the blame for such things as earthquakes, tornados and other difficulties that humankind faces. Some things are just natural tragedies, some things are attacks of Satan, and some things happen to us as a result of personal choices and choices that our nation or culture has made. We cannot explain all things this side of heaven, but let’s look at those things that God allows for our testing:

 The first thing we see about this passage above is that it was God who led the Israelites in the wilderness, the place of barrenness and dryness. Have you been going through a dry season in your life at this moment? Then maybe this is for you! The testing was for the Israelites to realize that even though they had been set free from the bondage of Egypt, the ways of Egypt was still in their hearts. Slavery’s effects still dominated them. It is similar for us; even though we have been released from Satan’s bondage of sin, sin still rules over us until we come to the place where we realize and see ourselves as God sees us, free from slavery to sin. In our thought life, we still default to sin until we come to a place where we listen to God’s Word that we don’t live on bread alone but that we need spiritual food, the Word of God, for our spiritual growth and health. The test is to wake us up to see our complete dependence on Jesus. How much do you value the truth of the Word of God at work in your life? Keith Thomas

What Limits has Man Put on You?

2The next Sabbath he began teaching in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They asked, “Where did he get all his wisdom and the power to perform such miracles? 3He’s just the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon. And his sisters live right here among us.” They were deeply offended and refused to believe in him (Mark 6:2-3 NLT).

Have you ever felt that someone has put a limit on you as to what they think you can do? You, as well as I, have heard things like “he’ll never amount to much” or words such as “she has always been like that and always will be.”

We must be careful with our words. Words have great power to create and build up, but also have the power to destroy. I always remember how hurt I was at the tender age of 11 to be referred to as the ugliest kid in a school of over a thousand kids. It took me a long time to break out of that self-image of being ugly. What words have you had spoken over you that still limit you today? The people referred to in our passage of Scripture above were offended at Jesus because he was just a carpenter. He didn’t have the right stock, he’s never been to Bible school or seminary, he’s just a carpenter, he’s only good for woodwork, and he has no place in ministry! People can place limits on us with their words. We should no longer look at those that have given their lives to Christ in the same way as we once did. If you are in Christ, there is an awesome potential that has been given to you by the Spirit of God. Let the lid that has held you down be taken off! Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthian Church, told them toregard no one from a worldly point of view” (2 Corinthians 5:16). What did he mean? I believe he is talking about taking off the limits that we place on one another. Trust God to do that for others too!

Prayer: Lord, I may not be everything you want me to be yet, but please help me to break free from every box that has limited me in my growth to be like Christ. Let the lid be taken off.  Keith Thomas

The Strategic Parable of the Soil

11“This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop (Luke 8:4-15).

What I love about God’s Word is that there is often more than one way to interpret it. Often, Jesus speaks on two levels, for example, on the cellular level and the organism level. While we should receive it at the cellular level, we can also look at it from a strategic sowing and harvesting level of area, state or country. We have been commanded by our Lord to preach the Gospel to the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and the end will not come until the job has been done (Matthew 24:14). People resources and financial resources should not be spent on trying to raise a harvest on pathway soil, ground that will bring little return on the investment. Strategic thinking is required to find good soil.

Any good farmer will test the pH level of the soil to find out if it will grow what he wishes to plant. Let me illustrate what I mean. When I worked as a commercial fisherman with my father, we wouldn’t go hunting in the summer for the small fish called sprats. There were only certain times of the year that the sprats would school together in huge numbers. It was not strategic or pragmatic to put sprat nets on our gear and try to catch them. The times and the seasons determined the kind of investment to catch the fish. C. Peter Wagner uses the illustration of an apple farm:

“Suppose I have an apple farm with three fields. In the first field the apples are so ripe that one worker can reap five bushels in one hour. In the second field, only a few have ripened and it would take five hours just to reap one bushel. In the third are no ripe apples at all. I have 30 workers to send out to pick apples. Where to send them is not a difficult decision. I would not send all 30 into the first field where the apples are ripe, but I would send 29. I would ask the other worker to go into the second field and pick as many apples as possible, but frequently to travel over to the third field as well. When this worker returns, I do not expect to see a great number of apples. In this case, I am more interested in information than apples. Through this person I will know when the other apples ripen, and on that basis redeploy my work force. The harvest determines the quantity of workers employed.”[1]

Timing and location are important in bringing in the harvest. Countries and regions go through seasons of fruitfulness. Don’t misunderstand me. There are people in all countries ready to receive the Word of God and come to Christ, but revivals are often due to something that God is doing in a region or country. The Church of Christ needs to look strategically as to where God is working, where the field is ripe. Let me give you an example. Argentina was hard pathway soil that was trusting in its leadership council in the early 1980s. All that changed when the military leadership sent an invasion force to capture the Malvinas Islands or Falkland Islands from the British. Maggie Thatcher, the British Prime Minister, sent the British forces down to the South Atlantic, and after several battles, recaptured the Falklands with the loss of many lives.

The Argentine national pride was humbled, and with it, a loss of trust in their leaders. God said, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land…” (2 Chronicles 7:14). The humbling of the Argentine people was used of the Lord to turn hard pathway soil to good, rich growing soil. A huge turning to Evangelical Christianity and a massive revival took place! Political situations are used by the Lord to create conditions of a ripening of the soil. God is working by His Spirit everywhere, and history shows us vast moves of the Spirit at different times and places, changing the spiritual climate of those countries.

Some people and countries are tested not by trials, but prosperity. They are lulled to sleep by pursuit of pleasure and do not see their need of Christ, so they do not give Him place in their heart. The Word of God is forgotten, replaced by worldly perspectives. For the most part here in the United States, our soil condition is one of weeds. Fruitfulness is in the soil, but the weeds choke out growth. Our adversary, the devil, pushes hard to transform the culture into one of deception and evil, but I sense that God, out of His mercy, will not allow our complacency to continue! I believe that there will be conditions, situations, and events that will turn the spiritual tide for these United States in order to create the right conditions for a massive harvest among people today, especially our youth.

The USA saw a huge growth in the church during the Jesus movement in the ‘60s and ‘70s. It is time for another move of God, and we need to be ready to receive new believers by being disciples ourselves in order to disciple others and be those who are fruitful. Let us look at the ground of our own hearts and make sure that there are no weeds of bitterness or unforgiveness and deal with any hardness or unbelief.

Keith Thomas. Taken from the Luke studies in the middle column, Number 16, The Parable of the Soil.

[1] Strategies for Church Growth, C. Peter Wagner, Published by Regal Books. Page 65.